DAYTON, Ohio – Ernesto Liberatore’s two-out single brought in Matt Lloyd from third base with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Dayton Dragons defeated the West Michigan Whitecaps 5-4 in the final game of the season Monday afternoon. The win was the Dragons fifth “walk-off” victory of 2019 as they closed out their 20th year at Fifth Third Field.
A crowd of 8,170 was in attendance to bring the Dragons final total for the year to 553,000, an average of 8,014 per game. They led the Single-A classification in Minor League Baseball in attendance for the 20th consecutive year.
The Dragons led West Michigan 4-3 going to the top of the ninth inning before the Whitecaps scored one run to tie the game and force a bottom of the ninth. The Dragons began their winning rally when Cameron Warren drew a walk to lead off the inning. Morgan Lofstrom bunted into a fielder’s choice with Warren out at second, and Juan Martinez grounded out. Jay Schuyler walked to put runners at first and second with two outs, and Matt Lloyd ran for Lofstrom at second. Mariel Bautista was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Liberatore ran the count to 3-1 before lining a hit past the shortstop into left field to bring in Lloyd and end the game.
The Dragons finished the second half with a record of 30-40, in sixth place in the Midwest League’s East Division. Their final full-season record was 58-82. A complete summary of the 2019 season will be released this week.
After West Michigan got a two-run home run from Danny Reyes in the top of the fifth, the Dragons battled back to tie the game in the bottom of half of the same inning. Miles Gordon ripped a triple to the right field corner with one out and scored on Claudio Finol’s single. Finol eventually scored from second base on Lofstrom’s single to right to tie the game, 2-2.
After West Michigan took the lead with one run in the top of the seventh, the Dragons responded with two runs in the bottom of the inning to take the lead. Cameron Warren singled with one out and went to second on a single by Juan Martinez. Jay Schuyler followed with a hard ground ball down the left field line for a double that brought in both Warren and Martinez and gave the Dragons a 4-3 lead. West Michigan scored one in the top of the ninth to set the stage for Liberatore’s heroics.
Dragons starting pitcher Clate Schmidt worked five innings, allowing two runs on five hits with five walks and four strikeouts. He left the game with the score tied, 2-2.
Tyler Gibson replaced Schmidt and pitched a scoreless sixth inning before allowing a run in the seventh. Matt Pidich worked a perfect eighth inning before giving up a run in the ninth. He was credited with the victory to improve to 4-3.
The Dragons finished with 13 hits, including two each by Liberatore, Gordon, Finol, and Lofstrom.
The Dragons will open their 21st season in April of 2020.